Friday, November 23, 2007

Have a Beef with Sidewalk Cyclists? That’s Easy, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

Not quite. But almost as satisfying, you can make an on-the-spot, citizen’s arrest. You see, under Japanese traffic law, a bicycle is considered a (light) vehicle and as such may not be ridden on the sidewalk. So the next time you’re on the sidewalk and a bicycle rider comes bearing down on you, ringing his bell to get you out of the way, you can grab the guy by the wrist, wrestle him down to the ground, and hold him there until the cops arrive. Yes, the provision is rarely enforced on its own, but for the police, it is sufficient grounds for stopping and questioning you about yourself and the bike before letting you off with an admonishment. Among other things, this means that unban cyclists in Japan are advised to have their IDs on hand. Specifically, gaijin sidewalk cyclists caught out without their IDs can be charged on that infraction, much in the way that NBA basketball players are caught with driving offenses and charged with drug and illegal arms possession.

The citizen’s arrest can be useful on other occasions as well. For example, did you know that under the Misdemeanors Act, Article 1, item 20, you can be detained for up to 29 days or fined between 1000 and 9,999 yen if you “wantonly expose buttocks, thighs and other parts of the body at a place where they would be visible to the public eye in a manner that raises a feeling of disgust among the public”? So, the next time you happen to wander upon the beach and you come across, say, Hoshino Aki in a thong bikini, you can grab the girl by… whatever you can get your hands on, wrestle her down to the ground, and hold her there until the cops arrive. But remember, it’s the “feeling of disgust” that counts. So, if you’re a gaijin, here are the magic Japanese words, rendered phonetically, to keep repeating out loud while you have Hoshino Aki pinned underneath you, just to be sure that the cops don’t haul off the wrong person:

Wa-ta-shi wa ken-o no jō wo mo-yo-o-shi-te-i-ru
(A feeling of disgust has arisen in me).

Trust me.


Anonymous said...

But all of Tokyo, including the cops, would be in jail if we did that.

Jun Okumura said...

Hey, what's the problem? So much for crime on the streets.

Tim Footman said...

You've forced me to Google "Hoshino Aki".

I'm not sure what's arisen, but it's not a feeling of disgust.

Jun Okumura said...

Yes, she’sthe Big Boo. Don't worry, I won't tell Small Boo.

Jun Okumura said...

Oh, and here's a pair of old Hammer pants; you look like you need 'em.

nolan said...

iv'e been stop by the cop's for riding on the road an told to use the sidewalk so i don't think you could be right on this!

Jun Okumura said...


Thank you for your comment. Let me explain.

According to the Road Traffic Act (Act No.105, 25 Nov. 1960), Article 17, a vehicle may not be ridden on the sidewalk. However, according to Article 17-2, a light vehicle, whose definition under Article 2, items 11 and 11-2 explicitly includes bicycles, may be ridden on the rosokutai, or roadside band (there must be a better name for that unpaved space by the roadside on U.S. highways). Article 2, item 3-4 defines the roadside band; a thumb of rule is that, if the walkway is raised and bordered, then it’s a sidewalk; if it’s not, it’s a roadside band. However, the law is usually honored in the breach. I suspect that it is usually invoked by the police merely as a means to look for signs of more malevolent activities, like bicycle theft, or being gaijin without an ID. In your case, there are several possibilities:

You were riding on the wrong side of the road, and the policeman just wanted you out of the flow of the traffic (he cared so little about running you in for the violation, and didn’t want to inconvenience you by ordering you to go all the way back till you could cross the road and resume the journey);
The roadside curb happened to have a delineated bicycle path; or
The policeman didn’t know the law.

This is not the only traffic law that the authorities have chosen to overlook. Scalpers at sports events tends to be left alone, and illegal parking in metropolitan Tokyo used to be a relatively safe option until fairly recently.

Garrett said...

And, Jun, what beach do you go to?

Jun Okumura said...

I'm a city boy, Garret. I roam the urban sidewalks, looking for Hoshino Aki in a thong bikini to come riding by.